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ATM turns 40

Janet Babin Jun 26, 2007


Lisa Napoli: Some of us are old enough to remember there was once a time when you actually had to go into a bank to get cash. The ATM turns 40 on Wednesday. From the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin has this retrospective:

Janet Babin: Barclays Bank opened the first cash machine in North London back in 1967. Now, 1.6 million exist worldwide.

But Andrew McDougal with Barclays says initially, the cash machine was slow to catch on with consumers.

Andrew McDougal: It took a long while to get going. I mean, only 700 in the first three or four years. But in the ’80s and ’90s, they went up about sixfold in each decade.

Barclays bought the first cash machine after just one meeting with its inventor, John Shepherd-Barron. He says initially, the PIN or ID number was going to be six digits.

John Shepherd-Barron: But my wife said she couldn’t remember more than four. So I changed it down to four and the word “pin” came from my wife’s nickname — it was Aunt Pin.

Shepherd-Barron has no grand illusions about his invention. The 82-year-old predicts that cash and ATMs could be obsolete in a few years, replaced by the mobile phone.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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